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Translating Calorie Counts into Exercise Equivalents Leads to Healthier Choices | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network

By mid-2012, coffee shops and burger joints across the country will be required to prominently display nutritional information about their food products. Many of the larger franchises are already doing this. But does knowing the number of calories in a caramel latte make you more likely to choose a fat-free coffee?

Unfortunately, no--most studies have found that caloric signage has little or no impact on the food choices that customers make. But that may be because people don't have a clear idea about what those calories mean, suggests Sara Bleich, a health policy expert at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"When my husband eats junk food, he always says he'll burn it off later," Bleich says. "And I'm thinking, `No you won't, honey.' "

The 250 calories in a bottle of soda may not sound like much, but to work off those calories, a 15-year-old weighing 110 pounds would have to jog for 50 minutes, ride a bicycle for 73 minutes, or walk briskly for two hours. Adults would have to work even harder, to compensate for their slower metabolism. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, Bleich found that translating calories into a physical activity equivalent can help customers make healthier choices.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sun Dec 18th, 2011 at 12:34:52 PM EST
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